Partnership Debunked In CU Scuffle Over Trademark
DENVER – Saying the name and business citations, including a website address, are too similar, California’s Partners FCU filed suit in federal court yesterday claiming the newly created Partner CU–an amalgamation of Eagle Legacy CU and Denver Water CU–infringes on its trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The suit seeks a court order blocking the $225 million suburban Denver credit union from using the trade name, logo, service mark and website address of Partner CU, which it says is too similar to the protected trademark of the $1 billion Burbank credit union, serving California’s and Florida’s Disney community.
Such a suit was only a matter of time before being filed among credit unions, with dozens of credit unions sharing similar names including the words “Members,” “State Employees” “American,” “First” and other appellations. In fact, there are at least 13 credit unions with the word “Partner” or “Partners” figured prominently in its name, including The Partnership FCU in Virginia, Financial Partners FCU in California, Texas Partners FCU, Partners Financial FCU, Partners 1st FCU and American Partners FCU.
The California credit union giant made its case in an April cease and desist letter to the newly created Denver partnership, formed by the merger of the two local credit unions, attributing its protectiveness to the “substantial sums of money expended in the advertising and promotion of its services.”
Sundie Seefried, president of Denver’s Partner CU, said she had not seen the suit yet but acknowledged the dispute with the Disney credit union. She said after the local merger each credit union is continuing to use its former name under the Partner CU umbrella. She said she was somewhat puzzled by the stance of the Disney credit union because the Denver credit union plans to retain a local business and has yet to come across the California credit union doing business in Colorado. “We don’t have any ambitions to go outside our niche,” she told the Credit Union Journal yesterday. “It’s not like we’re going to be competing with Partners in California or Florida.”
A lawyer representing Partners FCU did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.